Perfect symbiosis of words and music in Fin de partie at the Opera Forward Festival

Kurtág: Fin de partie

At Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam on the 6th of March, 2019

György Kurtág’s only opera Fin de partie, based on Samuel Beckett’s play, has had a long gestation period. After being announced a number of times without materialising, it received its world premiere at La Scala last November, when it was declared to be a masterpiece. Kurtàg, now in his early nineties, was unable to travel to Milan, or to Amsterdam, where the same cast and conductor have brought the production to the Opera Forward Festival. At the curtain call last Wednesday, conductor Markus Stenz and director Pierre Audi held up the score and accepted the fervent applause on the composer’s behalf.

Full review on Bachtrack.

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A volcanic Elektra by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic

Strauss: Elektra

Concertgebouw, 2 June 2018

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Electra by E. Teschendorff, 1892, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“There are no gods in heaven!” sings Elektra just before her brother Orest kills their mother. In the Greek plays about the cursed House of Atreus the Olympian gods command the banished Orestes to return home and avenge his father Agamemnon’s murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra.

Full review on Opera Today.

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Stenz conducts an impressive Babylon at the Holland Festival

Widmann: Babylon

Concertgebouw, 3rd June 2017

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The Ziggurat of Ur in Iraq, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

According to the programme, at one point composer Jörg Widmann requires the chorus in his opera Babylon to split into 94 parts. I hope this is a misprint, but Babylon is a fearlessly ambitious composition. This impressive performance at the Holland Festival, led by the intrepid Markus Stenz, was deservedly cheered at length.

Full review on Backtrack.

Magnificent terror in new Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Glanert: Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Concertgebouw, 5th November 2016

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Detail from The Last Judgement (circa 1505) by Hieronymus Bosch

Like the work of it’s dedicatee, Detlev Glanert’s Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch spans the mortal and the immortal, the demonic and the angelic, the putrid and the sublime. It is one of the events commemorating the 500th anniversary of the painter’s death, and premiered one day before this Amsterdam performance, at St John’s Cathedral in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Bosch’s birthplace. It was an extraordinary performance…

Full review on Bachtrack.

Savage and noble: Wozzeck at the Concertgebouw

Berg: Wozzeck

Concertgebouw, 4th June 2016

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Johann Christian Woyzeck’s beheading in Leipzig

Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck is a perfect amalgam of music and text and, as such, cries out for a worthy staging to maximise its theatrical impact. Although neither Georg Büchner’s unfinished play Woyzeck nor Berg’s setting of fifteen of its scenes can be given a single-genre sticker, one way to describe them is as psychological thrillers. Even without stage direction, this concert performance played out like a thriller, with shudders aplenty.

Full review on Bachtrack.